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WhiskyCritic’s Pacific Northwest Bourbon And Whisky-A-Thon


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WhiskyCritic recently had the opportunity to sample a few of the bourbons and whiskies emanating from the Pacific Northwest section of the United States and while the bourbons/whiskies present did not represent the full swath of those available in the region, there were enough to get a good, ahem, “taste” of what might be in store for you if you happen to find yourself in the north and west regions of the country.

Heritage Distilling High Altitude Brown Sugar Bourbon

This distillery located primarily in the tucked-away town of Gig Harbor, Washington [and which will also have a presence in Eugene, Oregon] produces several varieties of bourbons but it is the 51.5% alcohol by volume [103 proof] High Altitude Brown Sugar Bourbon which caught our eyeballs. The brown sugar obviously provides a sweet touch to the bourbon but many times when you have such a lofty alcohol volume percentage, you are expecting and there usually is a little kick in your shin to these liquids. Not so with Heritage’s High Altitude Brown Sugar Bourbon. The brown sugar essentially offsets any and all shin-kicking elements and makes it an extremely pleasurable experience – or dangerous, depending on your level of pleasure – for those possessing a sweet tooth. [$45 per bottle]

Vinn Distillery Rice Whiskey

Normally, one would – rightfully – associate rice with sake, but at Vinn Distillery in Wilsonville [a suburb of Portland], they toss that association out the window and onto the porch. Rice at this distillery is used to make a variety of products, one of those being an extremely smooth and pleasant-tasting whiskey with a friendly, fire-breathing dragon on the label. Vinn Whiskey has been matured in the standard American oak barrels and claimed by the distillery to be the first rice whiskey produced and bottled in the USA.

When it is available – and the distillery warns that each Vinn Whiskey small batch is produced in very limited quantities – you can find it for $25 per 375 ml bottle.

Stone Barn Brandyworks Barrel 39 Straight Wheat Whisky

Stone Barn Brandyworks is based in Portland and while they offer a wide variety of spirits, it was the newly released [mid-April] “Barrel 39: Straight Wheat Whiskey” that WC immediately gravitated toward. The whiskey has tasting notes that could be categorized as sweet [but if you had just tasted something like the High Altitude Brown Sugar Bourbon, maybe your definition of that term would be more flexible] but was more in line with some of the wheat whiskies although there is a tinge of smokiness due most likely to the presence [7%] of oak smoked wheat said to be inspired by Polish Graetzer wheat beer. [$50 per 750ml bottle]

Burnside Oregon Oaked Bourbon

Eastside Distilling in Portland has been around awhile [and WC has written about them before] and so has their Burnside Oregon Oaked Bourbon [but we did not mention it specifically the last time].

Burnside Oregon Oaked Bourbon has spent time maturing in two barrels, the first time as the distillery’s flagship Burnside Bourbon and then it is tossed for another 60 days into heavy-charred Oregon oak barrels. This gives Burnside Oregon Oaked Bourbon a smooth yet fiery kick that will not overwhelm your taste buds but will remind you that it is bourbon and not some fancy-pants schnapps. [$27 per bottle]

Crater Lake Spirits Rye Reserve Whiskey

Crater Lake Spirits is based in Bend, Oregon, which is not actually in or near Crater Lake – unless you feel propelled to pick nits and claim that Crater Lake is “near” Bend and 90 miles meets your defining criteria. But exact distillery location aside, Crater Lake Rye Reserve Whiskey is the slightly more intense version of their American rye whiskey. Crater Lake Rye Reserve is bottled at 48% alcohol by volume [96 proof] and is, as one might suspect, a bit more prickly than its lower-proofed relative. There are strong distinct woodsy notes that would probably make this a very good campfire companion and have you at least feeling as though you could tussle with a bear if the bear thought it wanted some of your whiskey. [$40 per bottle]

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